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Education Product updates

Fixing feedback & launching Loops

Mote’s new ‘Loops’ product makes written and verbal feedback more engaging for students and more measurable for educators

Mote and feedback

Feedback has been central to Mote’s mission from day one, and today we are announcing a redoubling of our efforts to work with educators to unlock the power of feedback. 

Today – at the ISTE conference in New Orleans – we are thrilled to launch ‘Mote Loops’, a new product designed in collaboration with educators to address some of the challenges of feedback. Part of the Mote Chrome Extension, Loops is also integrated seamlessly with Google Classroom’s feedback workflow.

Why does feedback need fixing?

Feedback’s potential to improve student attainment, alongside other benefits, is widely supported by research. 

Given this proven potential, we have been surprised that more schools do not have explicit feedback policies, and saddened to hear of the challenges that many educators have experienced when trying to develop their own feedback practices.

So we embarked on a program of research to understand the challenges of feedback more fully. After dozens of interviews and hundreds of survey responses, three big challenges really stood out:

  1. Student engagement. Many educators are disappointed with students’ engagement with their feedback, and this impacts educators’ motivation to invest time in providing feedback.
  2. Impact measurement. Educators often don’t know whether their feedback is being actioned by students, or otherwise making a difference.
  3. Time. Giving high quality feedback takes a lot of time, often outside of regular teaching hours.

The scale of these challenges struck us as really significant, and we felt an irresistible urge to focus our energies on working with educators to address the problems.

Are grades part of the problem?

One theme that we have also heard repeatedly is the tension between grading – itself arguably a form of feedback – and descriptive feedback of the kind that the research predicts will make the greatest difference for learners. Our conversations with educators consistently echo research findings like the following:

“…if a paper is returned with both a grade and a comment, many students will pay attention to the grade and ignore the comment.

Brookhart, S. M. (2008) How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students.

Further research has introduced us to the wider movement of educators who are challenging the role that grading plays in K12 and Higher Education.   This movement is sometimes known as ‘ungrading’, or ‘going gradeless’, and its thought leaders include researchers like Alfie Kohn, who have argued that grades are something that should be actively minimized, if not eliminated, where possible. 

We have found the evidence and arguments against grading to be persuasive, based on the experience of the former educators on the Mote team, and also based on our experience working with educators and discussing feedback. We also understand that grading is a deeply-ingrained element of most educational systems.

Though grades were initially meant to serve various pedagogical purposes, more recent reforms have focused on “grades as useful tools in an organizational rather than pedagogical enterprise—tools that would facilitate movement, communication, and coordination.

Scheider and Hutt, 2013. Making the grade: a history of the A–F marking scheme

We are fascinated by the research on grading, and are inspired to work alongside educators to explore ways to support the ‘Ungrading’ movement.

How Mote is Evolving

When we thought deeply about the challenges of feedback, and of helping schools to move ‘Beyond Grading’, we realized that we could have more impact if we didn’t start with the assumption that voice notes were the answer.  Instead, we thought: what would it look like to focus on building a better solution for feedback?

Today we are excited to announce Mote’s commitment to a multi-year ambition to work alongside educators to support the process of helping schools and colleges to push ‘Beyond Grading’.  While the challenge feels familiar, it does mark a new chapter for our young company. We don’t know exactly where this path will take us, but we know that it will be shaped by our community and by the lessons we learn together.

Our first step

We’re proud to announce the beta launch of our new product, ‘Loops’. Loops is like an exit ticket for feedback, whether it be written or verbal.  In designing Loops, we had three main goals: 

  1. Increase student engagement with feedback.
  2. Nudge students to take action based on feedback received. 
  3. Inform educators about students’ engagement with feedback.

Loops will soon be available as part of the Mote Chrome extension – we will be launching it for all users on July 4.

Want to learn more? Check out this video!

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Product updates Uncategorized

Mote Achievements ⭐️

No matter how you use Mote, there’s almost certainly a lot more that you could be doing with voice notes to increase your productivity, human connection and accessible communication.

And, to encourage you on your personal learning quest with Mote, we’ve introduced eight Achievement badges that are unlocked every time you try something new. 🚀

Here’s a run down of the eight Mote Achievements:

Google Docs

Google Docs is the original grand-mammy of Mote integrations and now, there are two super simple ways to use Mote within Google’s flagship Workspace app. To earn your Achievement, you’ll just need to create ten motes within Google Docs, using either commenting or in-page hypermotes.

Google Classroom

There’s so many ways to use Mote within Google Classroom, for feedback, whole-class communication or group discussions. To earn your Achievement, you’ll need to create ten motes within Google Classroom. Mote really is the ideal medium for feedback – so what are you waiting for?!

Google Slides

If you’ve not used Mote for Google Slides, then you’ve been missing out. We’ve created the easiest and fastest way to record and insert audio within Google Slides. To earn your Achievement, you just need to create a single mote within Google Slides.

Google Forms

Did you know that you can use Mote to create voice-powered forms, and to give voice feedback on Forms quizzes? If not, you do now! Check it out – a single mote recorded in Forms is all you need to earn this badge.

Motepad

You can record motes at any time using the Motepad – it’s what we call the recorder that is part of the Mote extension, easily discovered from your web browser window. Earn your badge by creating a single recording with the Motepad.

Speech to text

We’re big believers in the value of adding speech to text transcription to your voice notes. They make it easier for your recipient to quickly scan your voice note, and to refer back to it at a later time. We’ve made it really easy to access speech to text – it’s a premium feature, but remember you can always access an upgrade by sharing Mote with a friend.

Translation

If you have a student or colleague who isn’t a strong native speaker in English (or whatever language you typically communicate), try using Mote’s easy Translation feature. You can translate the transcript of your voice note to your recipient’s native language and help ensure they understand both the content and the intention of your communication.

Mote Certified Educator

If you’ve read this far, then perhaps you’re the kind of person who deserves to become a Mote Certified Educator. You can learn more about this fantastic certification program here.

Categories
Education Product updates

Mote for Google Forms 2.0

We’re announcing a major update to our Google Forms integration, and I’m super excited to be sharing the details with you all.

First, a bit of history. We started to receive requests to integrate Mote with Google Forms all the way back in May 2020, but due to competing priorities it wasn’t until April of this year that we completed our phase of integration.

Based on the requests received from our users, we decided to start by supporting two ways to incorporate Mote within Google Forms:

  1. Audio descriptions: e.g. for educators to add voice as an accommodation or as part of a language learning assessment
  2. Audio answers: e.g. for students to create voice responses in language assessments.

Today, we’re excited to introduce you to “Mote for Google Forms v2.0”, with three great new features available with Mote extension version 0.1.4.0:

  1. Multiple choice answer options
  2. Quiz mode: immediate feedback
  3. Quiz Mode: individual feedback  

Read on to learn more about each of these new integrations!

Multiple choice answer options 

You can now include a Mote voice note, alongside a text label, within Google Forms multiple choice questions:

Record audio with the ‘motepad’ and add to your multiple-choice options

To record these options, just use the ‘Motepad’ recorder within the Mote browser extension, and then paste your mote links into the multiple-choice options. Students with the Mote extension installed will see both the text label and the Mote audio player.

Students will see both the mote audio and the text description

Quiz mode: immediate feedback 

You can now leave ‘immediate’ voice feedback for both correct and incorrect answers. Start by ensuring that you have checked ‘Immediately’ in the Settings Tab.

Then, within your Form’s question ‘Answer Key’, just add voice feedback (alongside optional text) to either/both the Correct and Incorrect answers.

Students with the Mote extension installed will see both the text label and a playable mote card.

Quiz Mode: individual feedback

To leave individual voice feedback for each student, first select the option to release marks after manual review.

Then, when you receive your student’s response, you can record your mote from the ‘Add feedback’ dialog box:

You can add both typed and voice feedback – students will be able to see both. 

We really look forward to seeing how you use these Google Forms integrations, and to hearing more ideas for voice-powered teaching. Keep on moting!

Categories
Product updates Technology

Release notes / motes

This page is updated to announce all feature and product launches, with links to other resources with more details.

December 2021

October 2021

  • Support for Tagalog translation
  • New UX for recording motes

September 2021

August 2021

  • New range of mote reactions:
  • Pause recording in Google Classroom
  • Pause recording in Google Slides
  • Extension and iOS app localization into Chinese, French and other languages. Find out how to switch your language.

July 2021

  • iOS app v1.0
  • New pricing page and quote generator

June 2021

  • Localization of Mote extension into multiple languages, including Italian and Spanish.
  • Improvement to Google Slides – all motes added to a ‘Mote audio’ folder

May 2021

  • Sticky motes‘ feature launched
  • Share to Google Classroom feature launched

Categories
Startup life Technology

We made it from zero to one – now we have help to get from one to ten.

Our reflections on ‘zero to one’ and announcing help we’re getting to go from ‘one to ten’

Getting from 1 to 10. Photo credit: Jon Tyson, from Unsplash.com

Going from zero to one means bringing something entirely new into existence, and being lucky – or far-sighted – enough to have created something that a lot of people find useful enough to use and to share with friends.

Going from one to ten means taking that early success and figuring out to make it relevant and exciting for a much bigger group of people. It means identifying and fixing the ‘break points’ in the current product, and it means scaling the energy of the founding team to a much larger organization.

Today, I’m reflecting on our own ‘zero to one’ journey – in our case that’s getting to the symbolic one million weekly user milestone on the one year anniversary of our product launch. And we’re also announcing and celebrating a new partnership that will help us get from one to ten.

Mote from zero to one

In January 2020, Alex and I started work on the project that became Mote. By the time we launched Mote just over one year ago today, the World was gripped by the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic, and we wondered just what this meant for our nascent startup.

We’ve been lucky – we got quite a few things right with our initial product idea, and we’ve been blessed with a fantastic community of users who shared their ideas for improving our product.

We’ve been frugal – we were largely self-sufficient for the first six months, and we only started paying ourselves once we started generating a meaningful amount of revenue, in September.

And, as we grew our revenue from sales, we were also able to hire brilliant team members with energy and expertise that complemented our own.

In getting from zero to one, we continued to refine our idea of what 10 or 100 might look like. In our case, we kept coming back to the key insight – Mote makes it easier to talk instead of type, and our users really like this. To get from one to ten, we will need to find more people, places and ‘jobs to be done’ where talking can be faster, better and more enjoyable than typing.

Mote from one to ten…and beyond!

Alex and I have always been confident that Mote has potential to become more than ‘just a feature’, that we are building something with real significance, however I’ve not always been very good at explaining this vision. That matters, because explaining the vision is really important in bringing brilliant people to work with us at Mote.

Telling the story and painting the bigger picture is also essential to attract the kinds of investors who are experienced at helping startups make the leap from one to ten. Today, I’m really excited to be announcing that we have secured partnership and investment from Craft Ventures, a top tier Venture Capital firm that believes in our mission, with a team that brings decades of experience in building startups through this phase of their growth.

With the funding we have received, we will be investing in growing our team and increasing our expertise to better serve the needs of our community. The funding gives us the additional capacity to address both the immediate top priorities of users and partners, as well as the longer term priorities that will help us meet the needs of both current and future users of Mote.

Some of the things we’ll be working on include…

  • Bringing a better Mote experience to mobile and tablet devices – starting with iOS
  • Integrating Mote into more products and ecosystems – starting with Microsoft
  • Better understanding and addressing ways to make Mote more useful every working day

For our users and customers, this means you’ve got a stronger partner in Mote – we have the resources to invest in serving you better than ever. We wouldn’t be here without the trust and kindness you’ve shown us so far, and we will be working very hard to win your continued support.

Most importantly, for our amazing team members, friends and early supporters, this investment is validation of the faith you placed in Mote and in its founders. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking the leap and for giving so much of your time and energy to this project – onwards! 🚀🌔✨

Categories
Education Technology

Wanna get some feedback on your feedback?

Think back to the last time you gave someone feedback – in person, on video chat, on a document or assignment. How did it go? Did they thank you? And most importantly, did anything change?

Here at Mote, we’re obsessed with these questions, because we believe they hold the key to unlocking more – and better – feedback. And this matters, because feedback is the essential ingredient in all learning. But don’t just take our world for it. According to the Education Endowment Foundation,

“Feedback studies tend to show very high effects on learning.”

Education Endowment Foundation

World-class companies like Netflix make continuous feedback a cornerstone of their culture:

” Feedback is a continuous part of how we communicate and work with one another versus an occasional formal exercise.”

Netflix Culture Statement

Yet the challenges of feedback cannot be overlooked. In that same EEF study, the conclusions include the finding that:

Providing effective feedback is challenging…it is likely to require sustained professional development to improve practice, and this includes active inquiry and evaluation. 

Education Endowment Foundation

While for Netflix, former employees have reported that feedback “‘…can be intense and awkward”, and that “the pressure to give and receive feedback was ‘the hardest part about the culture.”

Picture credit Christina @ wocintechchat.com via Unsplash

Fix feedback…with feedback?

Recognizing that feedback is both really important and really hard, here at Mote we’re working on tools that make it easier to give and receive better feedback. And while we started with a focus on improving the medium of feedback, we know it’s also essential to help improve the message, which starts with helping feedback creators to better understand what’s working.

We’ve just released a major update that makes it easier for users to track the engagement that their mote feedback has received. Feedback creators can see – and hear – all of the feedback that they’ve left on their Activity feed, and can filter this by whether it’s been ‘moticed‘, as well as by the recipient, the assignment and class. Recipients leave emoji reactions on feedback, which also helps feedback creators to understand what’s clear and actionable for recipients, and what’s not working quite so well.

It’s a step towards our vision of a world that learns faster through feedback, one with all the benefits of feedback – authentic human connection, faster, more personalized learning – with none of the downsides. If you’re excited about that vision, then please hit ‘follow’, drop us a line, or try mote for yourself.

Categories
Education Technology

A mote 💜 letter to STEM teachers

Credit: @Chromatograph on Unsplash

Dear Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics teachers,

Thank you for training the next generation of inventors and builders, for giving your students a problem solving toolkit they can apply wherever life takes them, and for your tireless creativity in finding new ways to teach your students during a pandemic.

STEM mode is for you

As a little token of admiration and appreciation for STEM teachers, we’ve just launched a new feature for Mote that we call ‘STEM mode’.

With this new feature enabled, you can choose to have mathematical expressions and chemical compounds formatted and rendered beautifully within your document comments and on our website landing pages.

To learn more about using STEM mode, check out our support article.

How it works

In order to detect STEM expressions within transcripts, we iterate through the text of a transcript and build a potential expression when we land on language that may be related to Math or Chemistry. Language that might qualify for a potential expression includes numbers, variables, functions, math operations, or letters in elements. We also consider homophones of STEM-related language, to ensure that errors in voice transcription do not lead to us missing STEM expressions. This means that an incorrect voice transcription like “why equals sign x” and “see oh 2” can still be formatted as “ y = sin x ” and “CO2”.

For potential Math expressions, we ensure that we only format expressions which are logical, meaning we don’t leave functions or math operations hanging. This helps avoid false positives, making sure that statements like “This is good, plus I think it’s a sign of improvement” aren’t reformatted to “This is good, + i think it’s a sin of improvement”, even though the plus sign, “I”, “sign”, and “a” could be interpreted as potential Mathematical language by themselves. False positives proved to be one of the larger challenges in evaluating STEM, as many words for Mathematical processes can be used in other contexts.

Evaluating Chemistry expressions involves determining whether a sequence of letters and numbers could feasibly represent a chemical compound. Iterating through a potential Chemistry expression, we have to make sure that each letter either represents an element in the periodic table by itself or represents an element when joined with the letter directly preceding/following it. If this rule is broken, then the potential chemical compound will not be formatted, as it is not composed solely of element abbreviations and numbers. However, there are still unclear cases where a piece of text could be either a combination of element abbreviations or a single word. In order to decide ambiguous cases, we search to see if the rest of the Mote contains any chemistry-related language such as “atoms”, “ions”, or “covalence. Depending on what we find (or don’t find), we are then able to make a more reasonable conclusion as to whether you’re referencing Colorado or carbon monoxide when you say “CO”.

With the evaluation of potential STEM statements finished, formatting accepted expressions presents its own set of challenges. For Math expressions, the symbols involved equations typically follow the same order as the words representing them, meaning an equation like “y=ax+b” is read aloud in the same order it is written. However, when inverting or applying derivatives to functions, this order is often mixed around. For example, one might say “y equals inverse sin x plus the derivative of f of x” for the equation “ y=sin-1x + f'(x) ”, where we can see that the “inverse” and “derivative” might be spoken before the functions they apply to, but the symbols for each are written after the functions they apply to. This means that formatting Mathematical statements is not a simple manner of replacement, but rather requires consideration for the role of a Mathematical symbol within an expression. Chemistry expressions are easier to format, as we only need to ensure that letters are capitalized if they are the first (or only) letter in an element’s abbreviation and that any numbers occurring after letters are turned into subscripts.

With the STEM expression fully formatted, it is inserted back into our representation of the transcript, with identifiers that will allow it to be rendered properly by the Mote Chrome Extension. In terms of the user experience, we decided to have STEM mode be a setting that a user can toggle on or off for individual Motes. This allows users to choose between the classic Mote text representation of transcripts and the new STEM Mode version with STEM expressions rendered using AsciiMath in conjunction with our React.js frontend.

To enable STEM expressions to be rendered and edited in our ‘Editor’ view we replaced the existing HTML textarea with a contenteditable <div> that contains both MathJax strings and editable text. The STEM expressions are separately editable only when selected, in a separate editing pane, and using the AsciiMath syntax. We’re pleased with how cleanly this seems to have solved for the need to edit both plain text and STEM expressions in one UX.

And that’s it! We hope that STEM mode proves to be a clean and elegant solution for your feedback!

This post was co-authored with mote’s own Chris Skokowski, Alex Nunes and Emir Mehić.

Categories
Startup life Technology

In defense of time together

As a passionately remote-first company, I’m occasionally caught in the apparent paradox of having to explain why spending some percentage of our time together in the same location is a necessary part of Mote’s operating model. In fact, it’s so important that my relocation to Europe this Summer was partly motivated by a strong sense that our company’s future depended on Alex and I being free to spend at least some percentage of time together, free from the spectre of enforced two-week quarantines.

Anyhow, this week Alex and I have been able to spend quality time together, working on a business-critical product release, planning out the next few months, and taking stock of our progress. And coincidentally all of this has been against a backdrop of beautiful Greek countryside, many shared meals and more than a few shared drinks.

So, why is time together so essential for high-functioning remote teams? Here’s my take:

  1. In startups, you tend to be working very hard towards a highly uncertain and amorphous goal. Success depends on founders’ – and early employees’ – ability to convince one another that this goal is attainable and highly desirable. Time together is a way to mutually re-commit to the mission and journey.
  2. Sustained periods of high-intensity work will cause unintended stresses and strains on any relationship. This is true both at home and amongst work colleagues, and both sets of stakeholders deserve a level of reinvestment.
  3. Some tasks really are much easier to undertake while colocated. Really complex or novel product specification, quickly iterating on user journeys and priorities…

Categories
Startup life

One million motes this month…

Yesterday I noticed that we’ve now passed a delightful new milestone – our users have created one million voice notes (‘motes’) using our product Mote so far in September. By contrast, we saw 392,000 voice notes created in August and 711,000 created in May – our highest previous month. In this post I wanted to disaggregate what’s driving our growth.

44,000 mote creators

The great majority of our mote creators are educators. They tell us that they love using Mote because it makes delivering feedback really fast – because they speak faster than they type, and because Mote integrates seamlessly into their workflow tools- and friendly, because students appreciate hearing their voice and seam to be more likely to respond and action verbal feedback.

7,350 hours of mote voice comments recorded

The average voice note is about 25 seconds, so we’ve seen over 7,000 hours of voice notes recorded so far this month.

315,000 mote listeners

The great majority of people listening to mote comments are students, accessing their teachers’ feedback either within their homework assignments (e.g. Google Docs or Google Classroom), or on our website. While the US leads with over 240,000 unique listeners, we have had mote listeners in 152 countries worldwide so far this month. We’ve invested heavily in student data privacy and security measures to win the trust of schools, teachers and students, so we’re really happy to see this level of engagement.

Scalable Tech

I feel it’s important to acknowledge that this kind of growth would only be possible with a scalable technology platform, and we’ve been very lucky to have integrated a set of highly scalable technologies. Co-founder CTO Alex will be writing a blog post on this topic very soon…

Thanks for reading!

Categories
Technology

Mote Technology

Article coming soon!